Turkmenistan tries to stop Turkish expansion

Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov visited Moscow on March 30. He held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. And he also took part in a meeting of the Council of CIS Foreign Ministers on April 2.

According to Zakharova, Meredov and Lavrov will discuss key topics of bilateral cooperation. And also current topics of regional and global security, as well as interaction in interstate organizations.

“The Russian side views the visit as an important component of comprehensive measures to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership in accordance with the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, which was signed at the initiative of the President of Turkmenistan,”

Zakharova stressed.

“The main purpose of Meredov’s visit is to eliminate the imbalance in foreign policy orientation. The imbalance has developed as a result of Turkey’s powerful activity immediately after the Karabakh war. Turkey is strengthening its position in Central Asia. As “NG” wrote earlier (see issue from 03/14/21), under the direct patronage of Turkey, an epoch-making agreement was reached between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the division of a disputed oil and gas field in the Caspian, a dispute over which had been going on for almost 30 years.

Ankara want to expand the Cooperation Council of Turkic speaking States (CCTS)

Despite the fact that the field itself has relatively modest reserves, the precedent paves the way for other cross-border projects, first of all, the laying of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline connecting the huge gas reserves of Turkmenistan with the ready-made transport infrastructure of Azerbaijan for transporting gas to Turkey and Europe.

The next goal of Ankara is to expand the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States (CCTS, Turkic Council) through the entry of Turkmenistan into the organization. Ashgabat is still hesitating with a final decision, citing its status of permanent neutrality. To speed up the process of Turkmenistan’s accession to the Turkic Council, in addition to bilateral pressure, a whole campaign was launched with the involvement of the Foreign Ministries of the member countries of the organization, which held talks with the Turkmen side. At them, the refrain voiced the advantages of strengthening the Turkic Council and the opening prospects both for this structure and for Turkmenistan itself after the latter joined the CCTS.

Pressure from Turkey

In addition to the obvious “carrots”, Turkish diplomacy did not fail to use the “stick” in relation to Turkmenistan. It is known that, according to a number of experts, there are more than a million Turkmen labor migrants on the territory of Turkey and Northern Cyprus. Most of them have expired documents. It is simply impossible to return to Turkmenistan for new passports and go back to work during the quarantine period. Protest activity against the Turkmen authorities is growing among the émigré community, which cannot but worry Ashgabat.

“The Turkmen authorities fear the mass entry of this critical group of citizens. Aware of this weakness, the Turkish authorities are making quite public hints that they may send migrants to Turkmenistan at any time. They even demanded the resumption of air communication between the countries. Ashgabat took the threat seriously and urgently began the construction of quarantine and filtration camps in the east of the country, where citizens arriving from Turkey will be checked not only for the presence of coronavirus, but also for loyalty, having prepared equipment for hacking personal computers and arriving phones, ”Aytakov said. According to him, the Turkmen side was forced to make some concessions and accepted the invitation to participate in the summit of the heads of state of the Turkic Council on March 31 in an online format.

Turkmenistan is firmly resisting the pressure

Turkmen authorities are well aware of all possible aspects of the concern of the Russian side regarding Turkey’s next attempt to penetrate into Central Asia and create a pro-Turkish bloc in the form of the Turkic Council and its political or military reincarnation in the near future. The Turkmen authorities themselves have very great fears in connection with the increasing activity of Turkey and its attempts to dominate the region. And hence the possibility of at least adjusting or influencing domestic and foreign policy, ”Aitakov said.

It is clear that the agenda of Meredov’s visit to the meeting of the CIS Foreign Ministers had been prepared for a long time. The subject of the bilateral program is becoming very relevant and valuable for the Turkmen side. It is a clear demonstration to both the Turkish authorities and its companions on the Turkic Council that Turkmenistan should not be driven into a corner. There are other footholds that the Turkmen authorities can use in case of more open pressure. “

“Of course, there is no talk of any“ Russian ”turn in Turkmen politics. Right now the Turkmen leadership urgently needs to demonstrate not only adherence to the obligations of an associative member in the CIS, but also the presence of dynamics in bilateral relations with Russia. And at the same time demonstrating to the Russian authorities the intention not to delve into Turkey’s integration projects. And also to other pro-Turkish structures that are planned for implementation in the near future.

According to the expert, despite the great temptation to bring Turkmen gas to European markets, the Turkmen authorities are well aware that in this case they will instantly become hostages in a big Turkish intrigue in relations with Europe, automatically turning from a subject into an object whose opinion will be taken into account in last but not least, the haste of Turkish diplomacy leaves no doubt about that. This is already seriously hurting the pride of the Turkmen leadership. They are trying not to resort to the services of intermediaries. Especially such dominant ones as President Recep Erdogan.

Time for Russia to determine its position on Turkey’s penetration into the Central Asia

“In the end, it is time for Russia to determine its position on Turkey’s penetration into the Central Asian and Caspian regions. Turkey’s ambitions already extend not only to Central Asia, but also to Afghanistan.

With regard to the Caspian region everything looks even more serious. “The mantras that the norms of the Caspian Convention, defining the status of the Caspian Sea, protect the region from the intervention of third forces, which repeat the policies of the Russian Federation, are not worth a damn. Iran has not even begun to ratify the convention, claiming to articulate the principles of dividing the water area. That means that the document will not come into force soon, and all its norms, including the non-accessibility of non-regional countries to the policy-making process, remain only good wishes.

Turkish authorities are in a hurry to take advantage of this – to stake out their participation in the Caspian regional policy and actually devalue the principles of the Caspian Convention. That, in turn, is a direct threat to regional security. Process which has been built with such difficulty for almost 30 years.

Interests of all countries involved must be respected

Both the Turkmen and Russian sides will have to rethink the newly formed configuration. And also to formulate a mutually acceptable position that takes into account not only all aspects of bilateral relations. And also the interests, ambitions and claims of other regional and world players, including Iran and China. If from the point of view of the“ struggle for resources ”now Turkmenistan does not play a decisive role for Russia, then in the moment the“ struggle for territories ”comes to the fore, in which it is Turkmenistan that is the key subject, on whose position the outcome of the next phase depends (after South Caucasus – Nagorno-Karabakh) rivalry between Turkey and Russia, ”Aitakov believes.

In his opinion, we must pay tribute to the Turkmen side, over the past year it has sent signals to the Russian authorities more than once – on the day of the Victory Parade, May 9, with the invitation of a high-ranking Russian delegation, various initiatives for economic cooperation, almost instant registration of two Russian vaccines against coronavirus is far from a complete list of curtsies towards Russia, which, in turn, began to suppress all manifestations of protest activity of the Turkmen emigration and students studying in Russian universities on its territory (one was even sent to Turkey without being granted asylum). But all this remains only ritual signs of mutual attention and disposition.

“But the fundamental challenges that are capable of defining and changing the configuration of the entire region, so far, they remain unanswered or are again at the mercy of “quiet diplomacy”, the effectiveness and efficiency of which often raises serious doubts. The history of Russian-Turkmen relations, like no other, is a good illustration of this, ”the expert concluded.

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